European PS3 launch apathy
The Playstation 3 is due to hit Europe after a lengthy delay on March 23rd, 2007. That's in just over two weeks. There's one problem - nobody really seems to care. Gaming news sites tell stories of the high RRP (£425 in the UK) being too much for gamers to stomach. Certainly, at the time of writing, it's still possible to pre-order a European PS3 from every online store that I've checked (that's Amazon UK, Gameplay, GAME, and HMV), despite stores' best interests of promoting it as a hard-to-obtain must-have item, and their assurance that stock is limited.
Although I wasn't at the time actively involved with console gaming, Sony's mistakes with their new system seem eerily reminiscent of the ones that a then-arrogant Sega are documented to have made in the mid-90s. To sum it up in a nutshell, Sega took part in a binge of pushing premature, expensive technology into gamer's hands, before it was cost-effective to do so. Resulting fiascos included unnecessary optical discs with Sega Mega CD, motion sensing with the Genesis ACTIVATOR (ever heard of that?), networked game delivery with the SEGA Channel cable service, and two handheld gaming devices that sacrificed functionality and affordability for technological power.
segasaturn.pngSega's arrogant business culture allowed the company to think that after the massive success of the Genesis/Mega Drive in Western markets, it could do no wrong. Apparently partly due to this, the company launched an expensive system (the Sega Saturn) at a price that was unappealing to most gamers. All of this while a newcomer (Sony) were rapidly turning the heads of developers who began moving towards a competing system.
Read those paragraphs again and replace the Sega technological outings with "Blu-ray", the name of the overpriced console in question with "PS3", and the newcomer with "Microsoft" (although that's less of a direct comparison, I admit). I'm not saying that this is a direct parallel, or what gamers would buy or not buy in 1995 still holds true 12 years later; what I'm saying is that it wouldn't be impossible for Sony's dominance to slip. It certainly appears to be heading that way.
Although UK:Resistance is a site that often parodies the video gaming world with its own exaggerated humour, most of the news posts have some things in common: the underlying ideas are real, and the commentary is more often than not, brutally honest. Today's headline reads "LONDON DROWNING IN SEA OF UNWANTED PS3s" and has information about a Virgin Megastore in England using desperate measures to try and generate interest in the machine. The pictured billboard (reposted below) warns shoppers that this is their "Last chance" to pre-order a PS3, but the person who submitted the news reveals that the board has been on display for over 2 weeks.
Older UK:R entries feature store workers e-mailing in with stories of busy Saturdays going by with not a single shred of interest in the machine, only customer requests for 360s and Wiis (which are still difficult to find). The reader in question even added that the floor manager actually asked his workers to place pre-orders for the machine in place of genuine ones, so as not to get in trouble with upper management.
The hard evidence appears to be mounting up and it's becoming quite clear that as vilified as Sony are in the gaming world right now, this is no joke. It really does make you wonder if Sony Computer Entertainment are in over their heads. Personally, as a European who already owns a Playstation 3 (it's on my desk for the purposes of Blu-ray Disc movie reviews), I can fully understand the apathy from the video gaming crowd. It's going to be interesting to see if it continues. Despite being impressive hardware (personally, I scored it at 8/10 when I reviewed it as a Blu-ray player for DVD Times), from the perspective of the quality of the games, it's deserving what it gets.
Και για οσους δεν θυμουνται το Saturn: